April 7 2015 07:21 PM

The "emotional-abstract" artist's work has a language all its own. Literally.

Brittany Segal
Photo by Seth Combs

From a distance, it almost looks like Arabic or, perhaps, a unique style of calligraphy. Hieroglyphics? Wingdings?

Artist Brittany Segal says there's little point in busting out Google Translate when it comes to making sense of her pen-on-canvas, black-and-white pieces. The words in what she describes as "emotional-abstract" works aren't written in any official language. And they're not necessarily written in a language only she can decipher. Like a preacher speaking in tongues, it's just something that pours out of her unfiltered, decipherable to those who believe. For her, the words mean nothing. And, yet, they mean everything. 

"They're honestly diaries of just whatever was going on that day or that week," says the 26-year-old Segal, who grew up in Downtown. 

One piece in her Golden Hill studio twists and turns 16 times forming quadrilateral shapes on the canvas. When asked the title of the piece, she's quick to point out that, whether it's her pen pieces or her abstract oil paintings, none of them have names. 

"I don't like names," says Segal, who just wrapped up a solo show at ACD Gallery in North Park. "When you look at a title, people try to figure out what's going on and I'd just rather they appreciate it for what it is and take their own feelings from it."

Segal says she became an artist "out of the womb." Her mother and father bought her easels and paint when she was in kindergarten and she hasn't stopped since. Geographically, she's bounced around almost as much as she's bounced around schools ("I'm highly dyslexic; just no good at school," she says), but after a sojourn in New York, she moved back to San Diego and decided to try to make a career as an artist. 

Two years ago she held a pop-up show in her Golden Hill studio, which led to a solo show at Soze Gallery in Hollywood. Most recently, she was chosen as the "launchpad artist" for the annual Art San Diego contemporary art fair that happens in November. She's made a fan of organizer Ann Berchtold, who wants Segal's pieces prominently on display at the entrance to the event. On the surface, it could seem a little all-in-the-family that she was chosen. Segal's father, Jonathan Segal, is a prominent local architect and her mother, Wendy, has worked for Art San Diego in the past. 

"That was actually my biggest worry," says Segal, pointing out that she doesn't even know what the word "nepotism" means. "That terrified me. I love my dad's work and everyone knew that I was an artist, but I was still Jonathan Segal's daughter. It was important to me to do this on my own and not have my parents involved. It was important to me to prove it to everyone, but it was also important to me that I prove it to my family."

She points out that she barely breaks even with her work and that she recently sold a piece to a man in Denver who saw her work on Instagram and has never met her or her family. Others are starting to notice as well. She was recently commissioned to do a piece for Ryot, a Vice-style news website that's beginning to delve more prominently into the arts. She's also working with metal artist Matt Devine on a possible dual show in L.A. this summer. She's starting to see the fruits of her labor and thinks she's finally on the verge of being the career artist she's always wanted to be. 

"There was one point where I wanted to move to London," Segal says. "I didn't because I want to create my own empire here."

Email editor@sdcitybeat.com or follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.


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